The Supreme Court directed the PTI and PDM Parties to hold a consultation on the date for elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assemblies.
The Court passed these directives during the hearing of Suo Motu proceedings regarding the delay in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) By-polls.
Also Read: By-Elections Date: Supreme Court raises Question over Dissolution of Provincial Assemblies
A five-member Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Shah, and Justice Mandokhail heard the case.
In today’s hearing the attorney general for Pakistan informed the court that he was ready to give arguments. He also raised an objection to the Supreme Court Bar Association President Abid Zuberi, saying that his name had been removed from the judicial order.
In response, Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial remarked “What is written in the court is not part of a judicial order”
After this, Zuberi started his arguments.
“Supreme Court has declared it in the past that the elections should be held in 90 days,” Zuberi stated.
At one point during the hearing, Justice Mandokhail asked if the governors and president were bound to take advice from the cabinet in the matter. “Can they announce the date for polls on their own?” he questioned.
“Presidents and Governors were bound to follow the Cabinet’s advice as per the Constitution,” he remarked.
“Can the president or governors give the election date on their own,” he inquired.
Meanwhile, CJP Bandial remarked that the governor wasn’t constitutionally bound to follow anyone’s advice regarding the appointment of a caretaker government or deciding the election date.
While Justice Mazhar added that “no one’s advice is needed where there is discretion.”
Moving on, the CJP asked who would issue the notification for the assembly dissolution.
Responding to the question, Zuberi said that the notification for the dissolution of the Punjab Assembly had been issued by the law secretary.
At this point, Justice Akhtar remarked that the 90-day period starts right after the assembly has been dissolved.
Meanwhile, Justice Mandokhail maintained that under Article 48 of the Constitution, every act and action of the president was bound to be on the recommendation of the government.
At this Justice, Mazhar said the governor will give the date keeping in mind the decisions of the Election Commission.
“Can the President take any decision without the advice of the Cabinet?” Justice Shah asked.
Here, the CJP Bandial then asked who the governor must consult for announcing poll dates. Zuberi stated that the consultation could only be done with the ECP.
The CJP questioned if the SCBA president was claiming that the incumbent government was not fulfilling its constitutional responsibility.
“If the Election Commission shows an incapacity to conduct elections, is the governor still bound to give the date,” Justice Shah questioned. Zuberi replied that the governor was bound to give the date in every case.
At one point, Justice Mazhar said that “if the president could not announce the date for elections then what is the need for Section 57(1)?”, adding that the law should then be struck out.
“In your opinion who should announce the election date as per Constitution”? The CJP inquired attorney general.
“Only ECP can announce the election date,” the AGP replied.
“President could only announce the date for elections when the National Assembly was dissolved. In the second situation, the president can only give the date when general elections are being held,” the AGP told the court.
The AGP continued giving arguments and said, “The Constitution is supreme and it doesn’t allow the president to announce a date of the election.”
“Lahore High Court had clearly stated that conducting the elections and announcing a date is ECP’s role”.
At this, Justice Akhtar said that the ECP has to decide a date for the election and the governor has to announce it.
After the AGP concluded his arguments, ECP lawyer Sujeel Shehryar Swati presented his arguments and maintained that only ECP could announce the date of by-elections,
“The Election Commission operates according to the Constitution and the law,” Swati said and added according to the Constitution, the governor should provide the date of the provincial elections.
The hearing will resume at 4 pm.
The hearing resumed at about 5 pm after the break the supreme court heard both side argument and saved its verdict.
Now Latest Reports are that Supreme Court will announce its verdict on Election Suo Moto Case by tomorrow at 11 am.
Earlier the court gave PTI and the PDM until 4 pm to sit together and come up with election dates in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab. However, a mutually agreed-upon date was not found.
Supreme Court’s Bench dissolved
A day earlier The nine-member larger bench of the Supreme Court formed to hear the Suo Motu notice related to the By-elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab was dissolved after Four Judges refused to hear the case.
Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan, Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, Justice Athar Minallah, and Justice Yahya Afridi recused themselves from hearing the case.
The nine-member larger bench of the Supreme Court formed to hear the Suo Motu notice related to the By-elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab was dissolved after Four Judges refused to hear the case.
According to details Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan, Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, Justice Athar Minallah, and Justice Yahya Afridi recused themselves from hearing the case.
After the refusal of four judges remaining judges decided to resume the hearing.
Following this, a five-member bench headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Shah and Justice Mandokhail resumed the hearing.
When the hearing began, CJP Bandial shared that four judges had recused themselves from the bench.
“The rest of the court’s bench will keep on hearing the case,” said the CJP. He added that the court will continue hearing the case for the interpretation of the Constitution.
The CJP also noted that till the written order is not released on the website they cannot issue it. He noted that Justice Mandokhail’s dissenting note was shared on social media before the written order was released.
“We will be careful that this does not happen in the future,” said the CJP.
Zafar, the lawyer representing the speakers’, began his arguments and said that the Punjab chief minister sent the summary for the dissolution of the assembly to the governor.
The governor was bound to dissolve the assembly, however, he did not and the Punjab assembly was automatically dissolved after 48 hours.
The lawyer said that no constitutional officeholder can delay elections for more than 90 days, and the 90-day period in Punjab started on 14th January 2023.
On this Justice, Mandokhel asked whose job is it to decide the date for elections.
Lawyer Zafar said that a Suo Motu notice has been taken regarding a date for the elections. “Election Commission failed to respect the high court’s orders,” Zafar told the court.
“There is no such provision in the Constitution that justifies delay in the elections beyond the 90-day time limit,” remarked Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar. Justice Mazhar remarked that the Punjab governor threw the ball in the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) court.
Meanwhile, Justice Akhtar remarked that the chief minister’s advice was implemented in KP but not in Punjab.
“If there are no assemblies then there is no other way of governance in the Constitution. This is why a 90-day limit has been set for the elections,” said Barrister Zafar.
He stressed that the elections must be held within the 90-day period.
“The Election Commission’s job is to conduct elections,” said CJP Bandial.
Zafar said that the ECP is responsible for the arrangement of polls and conducting the elections. “The ECP has to conduct national, provincial, and local polls as per the Constitution,” he added.
“The ECP is responsible to hold elections under Articles 218, 219, and 222 and all the executive institutions are bound to assist the ECP in conducting polls,” said Zafar.
He said that the court should take action if the ECP shows helplessness.
President announces Election Date
It is pertinent to mention here that President Dr. Arif Alvi announced April 9 as the date for holding general elections for Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) assemblies. They announced the date under section 57(2) of the constitution.
The moves come after Chief Election Commission decided against attending the meeting called by President Arif Alvi to discuss the dates for holding elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
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